RIVERSIDE – A man who targeted numerous small businesses in Riverside County in a shakedown extortion scheme based on supposed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act began serving a 20-year jail term today.
Rodolfo DeHoyos, 57, pleaded guilty last November to 143 felony and misdemeanor counts of grand theft, attempted grand theft, sending threatening letters with the intent to commit extortion and extortion.
The plea was made directly to Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly, bypassing the District Attorney’s Office, and in addition to the 20-year term in county jail, Kelly on Monday ordered DeHoyos to serve 40 years mandatory supervision — a higher level of probation — and to pay $58,000 in victim restitution.
DeHoyos avoided serving time in state prison due to Assembly Bill 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, which established conditions under which defendants are permitted to remain in local detention facilities — as long as their offenses aren’t violent or sexual in nature.
According to the D.A.’s office, DeHoyos victimized business proprietors between December 2013 and December 2015, in a scam that involved citing alleged violations of the ADA and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on, among other things, medical status.
The defendant, who identified himself as a representative of “ADA Advocates & Consulting,” approached the victims — 58 of whom were named, though prosecutors believe the number could exceed 1,000 — stating his intent to sue for minor infractions. According to court papers, DeHoyos vowed that the civil suits could cost the proprietors $25,000 to $30,000.
“A letter also was given to the business owner containing statements like, `Please understand that if you deny my good faith effort to enter into negotiations to resolve this dispute, you may be held civilly liable,”’ according to a D.A.’s office statement.
“Because of a lack of understanding of the law by some business owners, along with the fear of a large lawsuit putting
them out of business, many would pay DeHoyos smaller amounts of money to make him and the threatened lawsuit go away.”
Under a bill passed last year, businesses with less than 50 employees have four months to rectify alleged ADA violations before they can be taken to court.
DeHoyos has no prior documented felony convictions.